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Posts published in “Idaho”

What Idaho was


Just about 10 years ago, after blogging for some years, I was invited by a Twin Falls editor to return to writing some of them as weekly newspaper columns. At the decade mark of doing that, I’m reminded how things were back when.

That first column, from May 2012, just ahead of that year’s primary election, seems pertinent for review now (especially with the primary election just past and the state party conventions ongoing). Some of the names and roles have changed, but the basic points seem to hold up after a decade.

Does that mean Idaho is what Idaho was? Maybe not entirely, but in part, with some yawning distinctions and more similarities. You decide. Here’s the column from a decade ago:

Whatever else this season's Idaho Republican civil war may be, it is not about "conservatism" - whatever that word may mean. It is not about "philosophy."

Just about all of the Republicans on the ballot this year for legislative office or higher in Idaho are small-budget, low-tax, strict Christian-oriented, business-backing candidates. In the scheme of things, their differences are far fewer than those between, say, mainstream Methodists and mainstream Presbyterians. There's not a lot of daylight.

Even if the view here is that the term "conservative" has been so thoroughly abused as to be beyond any coherent meaning or repair (almost like "liberal" in that sense), the people running for the Republican nomination in Idaho this year are, overwhelmingly, a consistent group - more internally, ideologically, consistent than, say, the comparable cadre of Republican candidates in Washington or Oregon. As a matter of agenda, they all ought to be allies.

But this turns out to be an ugly season of internal bomb-throwing, in which incumbent legislators of the same party - even co-members of the small leadership group - are throwing (money) bombs aimed at politically destroying colleagues with whom they almost always vote in agreement in committee and floor. How to make sense of this?

A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that there are so many of them, that Democrats are such a minor opposition that they find it hard to get worked up about them any more (on a state level, that is). And those personal dislikes are weighing large. Also the likelihood that primary turnout may be smaller and it may be possible for activists to have even more sway than they have had.

There is, for example, a concerted (and complex) effort by House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Majority Leader Mike Moyle to defeat their fellow member of leadership, Ken Roberts. (That is made clear more by way of campaign money donations than by public statements.) Moyle's comment: "My goal is to make Ken's life miserable because he's making my life miserable."

It certainly isn't because the issue positions and voting record of Roberts is more than microscopically different from Moyle's or Denney's. It's easier to declare that the opposition is somehow "less conservative;" but don't expect anyone to explain what that actually means.

This is happening by way of a series of interlocking PACs, which by some reports include the Victory Fund, Idaho Land PAC, Gun PAC, Free Enterprise PAC, Idaho Association For Good Government (aka Nonini PAC) and Idaho Chooses Life.

And, says a Spokesman-Review blog entry, "Endorsements are being given and withdrawn, two Kootenai County GOP groups are clawing at each other's right to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, and independent groups are mounting their own campaigns, either boosting or bashing various GOP incumbents under names like Free Enterprise PAC and Idaho Prosperity Fund."

This is a serious conflict, in that a number of political contests are on the line. But what have they to do with ideology?

Only this, apparently: Some activists seem to be all out, searching for the extremes and interested in throwing bombs wherever possible, especially from within the legislature; and others are more interested in relatively stable governing. A difference in approach and world view, certainly, and attitude as well.

But conservatism? Not unless a whole new definition is developed and commonly accepted for a word already degraded almost beyond meaning.

Ground zero


June is when most of the Pride parades, around the United States and the world, are held, and there are a lot of them, hundreds at least. One list of the relatively major events affiliated with an international organization counts 152. The parade in Coeur d’Alene, on June 11, didn’t make the list.

The Coeur d’Alene event was comparatively small and ordinary in its context. It got some attention locally, but little from people more than a few miles away - with some notable exceptions.

At first the Panhandle Patriots Riding Club, a culture war group which had scheduled a Gun Coeur d’Alene event on the same day, seemed to be watching it closely. According to one report, a poster for that event proclaimed, “If they want to have a war, let it begin here.” It decided to reschedule, however; in a statement it said that “due to instigation from local media sources, our event has been hijacked by extremist groups.” It named some groups, but not the one that showed up: the Patriot Front.

Coeur d’Alene law enforcement officers were tipped that a group aimed at disrupting the pride event was headed toward it in a U-Haul. They intercepted it en route and arrested 31 people from 12 states. Coeur d’Alene’s police chief, Lee White, said, "It is clear to us based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession, the U-Haul with them along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown.”

Documents and clothing items made clear that this group was associated with the Patriot Front; that group’s founder and national leader, Thomas Rousseau, was among the arrestees.

That raises the question: Why Coeur d’Alene?

When a police officer remarked to one of the would-be rioters that he had come a long way to Coeur d’Alene from his home in Alabama, the man responded, “We go where we’re needed.” But why was he needed in Coeur d’Alene?

And why to a Pride event that didn’t have much to do directly with the kind of racial issues that usually have been the Front’s focus?

Second question first. For the Front (and likely for any number of other similar groups) this is not just racial war, but broader culture war. Anti-abortion is a big part of their agenda too, and the culture war ethos you hear from much of the Idaho Legislature is reflected in many statements by Patriot Front group members. Like this one: “Those destroying the American family can only have the intent of destroying the American people.” That varies only a little in tone from the talk of many state legislators.

Still, why Coeur d’Alene and not any number of other places?

Here we come into some speculation, but we can safely say the Idaho Panhandle has been thought of for half a century in race-war circles as a special place – for culturally conservative white people. When Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations, moved to the Hayden Lake area in 1974, it’s because he identified the area a white homeland, and used that as a sales point for others of similar persuasion. In the quarter-century or so his activities took root there, the area became famous for them. The region became a magnet for many thousands of people from other places, attracted not necessarily by the specifics of Butler’s message, but by the cultural direction in which they pointed.

If you’re an organization like Patriot Front, that makes northern Idaho a ground zero for your kind of people, a place that has to be protected against anyone who doesn’t fit in. People of color. People of other sexuality. Certainly - gasp - liberals.

That’s why the incident and the arrests in Coeur d’Alene were more than just a dramatic event, and should be taken seriously.

Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County is a place many white nationalists see as theirs, specifically. And they well may, in time ahead, come from across the country to, in their view, “defend” it.

Be ready.

A process for banning books


The Nampa School Board has decided to spend time - its staff’s time - developing a process for banning books.

But why bother? They already know how to do that. They’ve done it already.

On May 9 the board decided to throw out 22 books (that is, 22 separate titles, which probably means several times that number of actual copies) from the district’s libraries. And classrooms, probably. They were in other words banned by the district.

True, not much rationale was attached to the choices. The main point seemed to be that someone at the district, whether a parent or board members or staffer, didn’t like them.

The quality or usefulness of the books, as something educational or otherwise of help to students who might have sought them out, apparently wasn’t at issue, or at least not much considered. One of those books was written by a laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Sounds dangerous for kids; it might encourage them to think, as it did to me when I read it.) The Kite Runner is an international best seller, massively acclaimed worldwide for its exposure of the effects of war (a subject of some current utility). The Handmaid’s Tale has won scads of awards, become a bestseller worldwide and a cultural touchstone and dystopian classic belonging on a shelf with 1984 and Animal Farm. (Are those slated for bans next? It wouldn’t be the first time.) You can understand, of course, why some people in Nampa might consider these books politically incorrect.

Not all of the banned volumes are major sellers or award winners, but all are thought-provoking.

That may be the through line. We don’t actually want kids to learn to think in school, do we?

Of course, a school board can’t actually say this (well, better pause on that: we’re in the 20s now) so presumably it needs some sort of, you know, rationale for what it’s doing.

That apparently is not easy, hence the search for a process.

At its May 9 meeting, the board simply did what its members - a majority of them - wanted to do; the why largely was left hanging. That didn’t stop the board then and in fact seemed to be an incentive, because the new board president, Jeff Kirkman, acknowledged that the board’s procedure for dumping books “was all over the place.” (Actually, the district’s librarians already had a book review committee to examine the contents of their collections.)

At its June 6 meeting, the board asked its interim superintendent (the last one had effectively resigned in protest when the new board took over) to develop over the next two to three months a process for getting rid of books the board, or maybe certained listened-to parents, disapprove.

To be clear here: Parents - all of them, not just the loudest voices - should be heard when school boards make decisions of any kind. Schools and school districts with strong parental involvement almost already are stronger and more helpful to their students.

But there’s a difference between parental involvement and allowing one segment of parents to shut the door on books and ideas that other parents find useful, and that’s what seems to be happening here.

Besides that, book bans generally, in this country at least, are an exercise in futility.

Try keeping the Nampa kids from downloading books off Amazon or other online sellers. Locally, Boise book seller Rediscovered Books has underlined the point with its “Nampa Banned Books Giveaway,” in which it has been giving away free copies - by the hundreds - of the banned books; it held one large event at a coffee shop in Nampa. The books are getting a lot of free attention and readers they might not otherwise have had.

The store added on its website: “Books matter. Access to books matters. Books are tools for understanding complex issues. They develop empathy, they expand our perspectives. Limiting young people’s access to books does not protect them from dealing with life’s complexities and challenges. People, and especially young people, deserve to see themselves reflected in a library’s books. Their stories matter, they matter.”

No process developed by the Nampa School Board will change any of that. A process is just an indicator of this: It’s only the beginning.

Note: This column was edited to remove the name of one book which may not have been on the banned list.


The monster


This isn't a movie review, not least because the movie in question hasn't been released or even finished yet. But it is a review of sorts about the fact that it is being made - or thought of.

Planned for release next year, The Legendary Bear Lake Monster - A Major Motion Picture is, its producers said, "Like a mix of The Goonies and Jaws, this action-adventure feature film will captivate audiences of all ages." And maybe it will. The monster has been the subject of … something, discussion at least, for a long time.

I researched the Monster for a book called Idaho Myths and Legends, and found the larger story seemed worth telling in print as well as (now) visually.

It started more than 150 years ago, not long after Mormons dispatched by Brigham Young had begun to settle the area around the large Bear Lake, which is split between Idaho and Utah. At that time the settlement seemed a little remote from the more established communities in Utah, and local interest in persuading people to look north was growing.

One day in 1868 a startling letter appeared in the Deseret News at Salt Lake, over the signature of Joseph Rich, the leader of the Bear Lake pioneers and settlers. It declared there was a monster in the lake: “now it seems this water devil, as the Indians called it, has again made an appearance. A number of our white settlers declare they have seen it with their own eyes. This Bear Lake Monster, as they now call it, is causing a great deal of excitement up here.”

Newspaper articles around the region kept the tale alive for years. It seemed to fade after a quarter-century or so, when in 1894 Rich admitted that the story was “a first-class lie” intended to stoke interest in the area for visitors and settlers.

That might have ended it. But it didn’t. In 1907 a person submitted a letter to a paper in Logan, Utah, saying he had been camping by the lake and was attacked by the monster, and his horse injured. There were reports, by children, about monster sightings in 1937 and 1946. In 2002 the operator of a local boating business (who did, to be sure, have an interest in tourism) said he saw the monster, or something that looked like it might be.

There’s been plenty of artwork and merchandising over the years, and even songs, like the folk tune from a century ago that began: “Climb a tree, quick, here comes the Bear Lake Monster; with Joseph C. Rich astride, acting as sponsor.”

And the story goes on.

One of the movie makers remarked, “If we’ve done our job right, audiences will walk away with a taste of the magic of Bear Lake and a belief in a world in which the legendary monster exists.”

Fair enough, and a worthy goal for an entertainment vehicle.

Our problem today is that, in the realm of politics and economics and managing the real world around it, we seem all too eager to believe and even embrace Bear Lake Monster tales.

There’s a lot of disinformation about these days, and the motivation behind much of it is far less well-intentioned than Rich’s was. Too much of what’s spread around now fosters hate and violence, while Rich was only aiming for interest and curiosity. Fantasies have become a weapon of choice in attacking our systems of health, education, elections, environmental protection and more.

And as we know, these fantasies can have real staying power, long past the point when they should have been dismissed, by one and all, as lunatic. Sometimes, the fictional monster can become so all-enveloping it can consume us.

The final kicker?

Bear Lake really is a pretty spot, and plenty of tourists and recreationists come there regularly and enjoy it.

In the real world of tourism and settlement, the monster turned out not to be needed.

Shifting goal posts


Abortion this year, birth control next year. And the year after that, something else.

That appears to be the agenda for the culture-social warriors in Idaho, after the likely overturning, sometime in the weeks ahead, of Roe v. Wade, which established a legal right to obtain an abortion.

That overturning is something many legislators and other anti-abortion activists in Idaho have been calling for decades: A prime target, one of their key reasons for the political activism they have pursued. In the meantime, awaiting the promised land of a Roe reversal, they’ve been busy drafting one law after another, some attempts to challenge Roe or push the envelope on it, or else take effect if Roe is overturned. But always the finish line was presented as an end to Roe and the illegality of abortion in Idaho.

If the U.S. Supreme Court soon does what almost everyone expects it will do, then, presumably: Mission accomplished, right? The anti-abortion activists have been calling for a return to state-by-state legislating on abortion, and for Idaho to take a hard line against it as soon as that’s possible. The Idaho Legislature has done what it could (and beyond that) to get it done, preparing for a post-Roe Idaho.

Having gotten to that point, you’d think they’d now be happy and, you know, sort of give it a rest. They got what they wanted.

Of course, this assumes that what they actually wanted was what they said they did: A state ban on abortion. (Generally, anti-abortion activists also tended to call for exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, but those exceptions seem increasingly to be forgotten.)

But far from being the end of the story, the odds are we’re closer to the beginning.

Earlier this month, state Representative Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who chairs the House State Affairs Committee (whose committee rather than Health and Welfare handles abortion and related measures), spoke on Idaho Public Television about what comes next. He said that he plans in the next session to hold hearings on bans of abortion pills and emergency contraception, and possibly more. “IUDs, I’m not for certain yet on where I would be on that particular issue,” he added (which strongly suggests that subject also will make legislative agendas next session).

News reports said that he later also said he supports legalized contraception generally. And that he had safety concerns about some of the drugs, presumably the same concerns addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than two decades ago. (The whole idea of which is preposterous: Imagine if you can what kind of intensive medical expertise you could expect out of the Idaho Legislature? Would you rely on it for your medical care?)

But come on: The door has now been opened, and given what we know of the Idaho Legislature (and how few Republican elected officials dare to let themselves be outflanked on the right), how long will it be before someone is tempted to walk through it? Explosive battles over contraception almost surely are just around the corner at the Idaho Statehouse, not to mention elsewhere.

There’s more reason than Crane’s interview remarks for thinking so. Consider: A whole large wing of political Idaho has based a large chunk of its activism, organization, fundraising and political candidacies on the back of a subject that soon would appear, in Idaho at least, to be settled. If you’re one of those politicians or activists or hangers-on, are you going to simply declare victory and go home?

Oh, hell no. What you do is find another, related, battle to fight in the culture war a few yards past the presumed finish line.

And they definitely will find it. There’s a lot of pent-up fury and energy that won’t be sated by a simple Supreme Court decision. It needs new material to chew on; the search won't take long.

Next year, look out for contraception regulation in Idaho.

Wonder where they’ll go the year after that …

The undercard


Those on one side of the great 2022 Republican primary split - those mainly championing statewide incumbent and major office holders like Governor Brad Little and Representative Mike Simpson - understandably felt celebratory as the results rolled in.

After all, Little was re-elected decisively, as was Simpson, both in the wake of very high-profile and bitter campaigns. The open secretary of state’s office went to a mainstream Republican, as did the superintendency of public instruction (to a mainstream-backed challenger, in that case).

But in looking at what’s next, don’t stop with the top lines of the election result. The overall picture is a lot murkier than those headlines would have you think.

Start with the vote counts which, considering that these are experienced, well-funded, well-organized and well-known office holders in the majority party, with mostly positive headlines and even some good luck coming their way in recent months, were not all that great.

As I write this (the numbers still could jiggle slightly) Little won renomination with 52.8 percent of the vote, a mediocre showing for an incumbent, achieved with some assist (we could discuss how much) from non-Republicans. Simpson’s win of 54.6 percent, for a member of Congress nearly a quarter-century in office, carried no shock or awe either.

The secretary of state’s contest, which featured well-established Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane running (chiefly) against an obscure-until-highly-controversial legislator named Dorothy Moon, was close, with barely a percentage point and a half separating them. Of note: If a third candidate, Mary Souza, whose positioning was essentially similar to Moon’s, had not been on the ballot, McGrane would have lost.

In the superintendent’s race the establishment preference, Debbie Critchfield, won - with just 39.6 percent. Notable also in that race was the total for Democrat-turned-insurgent-Trumper, Branden Durst, who placed a very respectable second.

But let’s not forget the insurgency’s big win of the night, for attorney general. Five-term AG Lawrence Wasden, winner of past primary contests, lost to former U.S. House member Raul Labrador. True, Labrador’s number was 51.6 percent (not shabby for a challenger), but consider that there was also a third anti-incumbent candidate in the race, Art Macomber. A two-way Labrador-Wasden faceoff might have resulted in a 60-40 Labrador win.

I know, this isn’t horseshoes. But if you’re looking down the road, consider also the message from the legislative front.

One of the top insurgent targets this year, Jim Woodward, lost his Panhandle seat, decisively. So did Grangeville Senator Carl Crabtree and Twin Falls senator Jim Patrick, and Boise Senator Fred Martin, none recently controversial in any real way. Other targets were nearly taken out, including Senate president pro tem Chuck Winder; even House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, seemingly as cemented in the legislature as any member, wound up with a respectably close challenge. One of the most angry senators of recent years, Dan Foreman of a Moscow-based district (he famously called his own county a “cesspool”) won renomination to a seat he was thrown out of several years ago. The Idaho Senate is about to become a more hard-line place. (The House may be something of a wash.)

House members like Ryan Kerby and Greg Cheney (note the remarkably vicious billboards in the Caldwell area targeting him) were knocked out as well.

The insurgency feeds on anger and division. They had as much cause on Tuesday to celebrate as anyone: They may have lost a bunch of races - though not all - but there’s plenty of material to keep the anger and division going at full throttle. It’s a lot easier to keep doing that when you’re on the outside than when you actually have to govern.

They’ll be back.

Everywhere a sign


The forests of political signs sprout like the fastest and hardiest of weeds at this point in the political calendar, when election day - or, the deadline for voting - looms just ahead. Along highways and arterials especially, you’ll see lots of them.

Across the Snake River in Oregon, where the primary election this year has the same voting deadline date as Idaho’s, you’ll see political signage too, looking in general not terribly different from their Idaho counterparts. With this exception: You’ll tend to see fewer political signs over there.

In Idaho, political signs can be - and there are notable exceptions to this - placed on public lands nearby (though not quite inside) road rights of way, which explains their presence at many freeway interchanges and under bridges. Signs can be placed on private property too (with permission) of course, but many of the signs on public land are there because a campaign decided unilaterally to plant them.

In Oregon, while there’s no single sweeping state law to this effect, you generally can’t plant a political sign on public property or even close by many state or many local rights of way. There’s a rule covering state highways, and many cities and counties have similar constraints locally; some of it is a matter of interpretation in a state where land use is much more regulated. The difference can be subtle but real. That effective restriction of political signs to private property means you need the permission of the private landowner (or, maybe, renter or leaseholder), which is a lot more work to obtain. That extra level of difficulty means the number of signs you see will be considerably fewer.

And this season I can attest political signs are a lot more visible in Idaho than in Oregon.

But they may be similarly effective in both states because not all signs really matter. All locations are not equal…

In rural areas, that often means outsized help for Republicans. In Oregon as in Idaho, most farmers and large landowners tend Republican, so you can guess whose signs you may see, often without interruption over many miles, outside the cities, and this is especially true in Oregon. Those candidates no doubt find it an effective way to raise their visibility.

Still. In the world of political consulting, campaign yard signs in recent decades have fallen into some disrepute. Candidates often like to see them out there, but are they really convincing anyone to support a candidate? Are they just an ego boost? For the most part, do they really even do much to raise a candidate’s visibility - as much as other forms of paid advertising?

I’d argue that in one specialized way they can be of service. Yard signs can be a validator.

In many areas - neighborhoods, cities, regions, whole states - the political culture develops an idea of what’s considered socially acceptable - acceptable, in this case, politically. If for example the people in a town have voted strongly for Candidate A for many years, then people in the area simply may go along with the idea when it’s time to vote, and the candidate benefits from the common assumption that people in this area simply vote that way. The prophecy, or assumption of common interests, becomes self-fulfilling.

But suppose a platoon of signs for Candidate B shows up in this town, with one visible every two or three blocks. The standing assumption is shaken; maybe - demonstrably - not everyone in town really does like A. Maybe B is also an acceptable choice.

It’s a powerful message, opening the door to political change - whether of party, individual candidates or even ballot issues.

The key to accomplishing this is not a mass flood of signs. Placement of signs in bulk - like those sign forests in freeway and busy arterial road areas - accomplish little; but tactical placement of signs in specific neighborhoods or other areas where an implicit message is being sent, can be a clear indicator of real local support which could help a campaign quite a bit.

So watch those signs - but not so much those that show up as part of a crowd. Watch for those that show up as counter-indicators, because they could be indicators of support where you didn’t expect it.

The runup


Little noted, among the week’s more dramatic headlines, came word from the group Reclaim Idaho that it has collected and submitted enough signatures to reach this year’s general election ballot with its school tax proposal.

That piece of news, though not especially surprising in light of earlier progress reports, may reverberate in the months ahead.

Qualifying any issue for the ballot in Idaho is a daunting task. What you mostly need is petition signatures, which sounds like not too big a deal except that the numbers required are both large and onerous to obtain.

A candidate running for, say, the nomination of one of the two major parties for governor of Idaho can do that by filling out a form and either paying a $300 fee or submitting nominating petitions containing 1,000 valid signatures. Most candidates just pay the fee (though I would argue that getting the signatures, while more work, would be a better campaign tactic).

By comparison, someone trying to qualify an issue for the ballot has to get petition signatures from six percent of the registered voters in the state - about 65,000 names. And that’s not all: They also need at least six percent of the registered voters in each of more than half of the state’s 35 legislative districts. Few statewide candidates would ever think of running if they had to meet a requirement that high.

Not only that: If you have any sense (as Reclaim Idaho did) you know you should collect many more signatures than you theoretically need, because some of them may be declared invalid or otherwise thrown out. Reclaim Idaho, therefore, collected well more than 95,000 signatures.

There is an upside, though: If you actually do succeed in getting all those signatures, from such a widely catered collection of places, you’ve probably already done a lot of the ground work you need to do to pass your issue. You have contacted and energized much of your support base, and you have a tremendous list of people to call upon in building support and raising money when the actual ballot campaign comes around. And you’ve been forced to do that in not just a few places, but many places around the state, and you’ve heard politically relevant arguments, for and against, from a lot of people.

You’ve done your homework, and then some. You’re going into the fall campaign well prepared, probably much better prepared than your opposition.

Not many proposals have gotten to the ballot in recent years; another effort, on medical marijuana, recently fell short. But since just a simple majority is needed to actually pass a ballot measure (the same standard as for a candidate in a two-person race), the chances of passage become decent.

The most notable example was in 2018, with the proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, an idea rejected with extreme prejudice by the Idaho Legislature, passed with a landslide 60.6 percent of the vote.

What will voters think of this new proposal?

Its goal is to raise more money to be spent on public schools. It would do that through a tax increase, which as Idaho Ed News described, involves “increasing the corporate income tax from 6% to 8% and by creating a new income tax bracket at 10.925% for individuals making more than $250,000 per year and families making more than $500,000 per year.”

The vast majority of Idaho taxpayers (read: voters) wouldn’t be touched personally by this, but the words “tax increase” ordinarily are toxic in Idaho politics, at the ballot as well as at the legislature. But not always. Plenty of local bond and supplemental levy issues pass each year, and the case could be made that fewer of them might be needed if this measure passes. It could be sold as a property tax assistance measure.

However the backers plan to market their measure, they now have a leg up.

Almost parallel slates


This year’s Republican primary election has a great parallel to the last couple of Republican primaries for state offices, to some extent in 2018 and especially 2014: A decision before voters, on office after office down the ballot, between what amounts to two slates, groups of candidates both within the party but as starkly divided as Republicans from Democrats.

In those two prior elections, as in this one, for many of the major offices, you’ll see on one side Republicans who might be called mainstream conservative or establishment, and on the other those you might call insurgent or extreme or Trumpist. Or you could apply other labels, depending on where you sit, but the reality of the split should be clear to all.

The highlight, as usual, is in the race for governor. In 2014 C.L. “Butch” Otter was running for (and won) a third term, and was opposed in the primary chiefly by Russ Fulcher, now the first district U.S. representative - running respectively as the establishment and insurgent candidates. Otter won, but not by a great margin for an incumbent in a primary: 51.4 percent to Fulcher’s 46.3 percent.

Down the ballot, for offices like lieutenant governor and attorney general, and in many legislative races (and in the second congressional district, where incumbent Mike Simpson defeated Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith), the pattern repeated: Clear but not overwhelming wins by establishment candidates.

Four years later, the situation became both more and less competitive. Otter’s ally Brad Little, then lieutenant governor, won his primary for governor - but with just 37 percent of the vote, as the insurgent vote was split between then-Representative Raul Labrador and businessman Tommy Ahlquist. (Many Republicans maintain, for good reason, that Labrador alone might have won the primary.) Primary voters in the lieutenant governor’s race went for insurgent contender Janice McGeachin (28.9 percent of the vote) over four other options, at least a couple somewhat more mainstream, but that was hardly a mandate-worthy number. Most of the other state offices, however, didn’t see primary battles: The slates were shortened, and the insurgents didn’t press their case so much for secretary of state, controller, treasurer and others.

This year, we’re seeing full-bore slates, high and low.

One of those comes in U.S. House district two, where Smith is rematching against Simpson in what’s looking like a serious contest.

Little is opposed by McGeachin (his most serious challenger) and six other lower-profile candidates. In the battle for lieutenant governor, the seat being vacated by McGeachin, Little and House Speaker Scott Bedke have struck an alliance, while state Representative Priscilla Giddings seems to be generally aligned with McGeachin. (There’s also a little-known third candidate, Daniel Gasiorawski.)

For three of the statewide offices, there are three-way battles. In two of them, one establishment-backed candidate (incumbent Lawrence Wasden for attorney general and Phil McGrane for secretary of state) faces two insurgents (Raul Labrador and Art Macomber for AG, Dorothy Moon and Mary Souza for secretary of state). For superintendent of public instruction, there’s one insurgent (Branden Durst) and two candidates with various types of establishment support (incumbent Sherri Ybarra and challenger Debby Critchfield).

And you can find a number of variations on these themes at the legislative level as well.

In the last couple of statewide elections, the establishment candidates prevailed nearly across the board. But it’s worth noting that the insurgent side seemed to do relatively better in 2018, and would have done better had its vote for governor not been split, and had it fielded more candidates for other offices.

Bringing us back to 2022. A general sense, across many of the people who watch these races closely, seems to be that the establishment candidates will wind up doing well again. Maybe so, and maybe the split of outsider votes in races like those for AG and secretary of state will matter.

As for me, as usual, I’m making no predictions. Feels safest that way.